The Enigma of Life

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Perhaps more than anything, Sirenia's fifth studio album, 2011's The Enigma of Life, is notable for featuring the same lineup at its predecessor, The 13th Floor, two years earlier. Believe it or not, this is a novel accomplishment for the goth metal ensemble ruled with an iron fist by Norwegian guitarist Morten Veland and his latest vocalist/muse, Spanish-born Pilar Giménez García, who for some mysterious reason goes by the nom de plume of Ailyn as Sirenia's frontwoman. No matter: whatever her name, Ailyn may have the requisite angelic vocal chops and Latin beauty, but not the sort of larger-than-life charisma that would help Sirenia compete with Euro goth metal standard-bearers Nightwish, nor, God forbid, outshine the domineering Veland. This state of affairs is ultimately the reason why The Enigma of Life, for all its beautifully arranged confluence of commercial appeal and cod-symphonic orchestration (see prime samples in "Fallen Angel" and "A Seaside Serenade"), is such a "nice" record rather than a stunning one: there's just not enough drama; not enough pomp; not enough Sturm und Drang to go around. And when Sirenia polish down both the symphonic and metallic edges of their sound for the benefit of saccharine singles like "Winter Land" and "The End of It All," forget about it -- all hope for distinction is irretrievably lost. Don't misunderstand: The Enigma of Life is a very solid and even engaging album on its own terms, but all of its contents have pretty much been done before, and better, by other bands.

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